Monday, December 26, 2016

The Hidden Talent of Erasers

Hidden talents!
The other day an Instagram friend and blog reader asked if my recent use of graphite had tempted me to use an eraser. After all, graphite is the one sketching medium that can be erased easily. I thought it was an interesting question, so after replying to her, I decided to respond here, too.

When I was taking part in InkTober, I had the impression that many InkTober participants used the event to wean themselves of eraser use – a challenge to face the indelibility of ink. Maybe I’m somewhat unusual, but I went straight to ink almost immediately after I began sketching, so I didn’t go through the eraser dependence that many sketchers apparently do. Indeed, even as a stark beginner, I realized that I saved a lot of time (and spared the paper surface that gets degraded from erasing) by skipping the pencil draft and going directly to ink.

Now that I’ve been dabbling in graphite more, I don’t think about the fact that it can be erased. I use a pencil the same way I use ink. When I make a line I regret, I simply restate it, and usually the shading that eventually follows will make the unintended line disappear. If not, it’s just a part of the sketch, just as all my ink lines are.

12/8/16 water-soluble colored pencil with erased highlight
However – I recently discovered a hidden talent of erasers that had not occurred to me before. (I’m sure this is common knowledge among graphite artists, but I guess I don’t read enough books by them to learn this the easy way!) A few weeks ago I was sketching a Comice pear and realized toward the end that I’d forgotten to save out the highlight. I was doubtful whether an eraser would be able to cleanly delete colored pencil, which is notoriously difficult to erase, but I tried it. To my surprise and delight, the color came out cleanly. I used a white plastic foam eraser (shown in the blue holder in the photo) that had come with a box of Uni Mitsubishi colored pencils, so I’m guessing it’s made by Mitsubishi (though it has no branding information).

12/22/16 graphite with erased highlight
Last week when I was using graphite to sketch a dumpling squash, I remembered to save out highlights, but after shading it, I felt like the highlights had gotten lost. I was afraid the corners of the eraser I’d used previously were too worn down to be able to get a sharp erasure in small areas. I needed a smaller, sharper eraser. That’s when I remembered the Tombow Mono Zero Elastomer eraser that I had received as a gift a couple of years ago. It took me a while to find it, but it turned out to be perfect. It has a tiny rectangular erasing surface, so the corners and edges are small enough to put in the highlights easily.

Erasers aren’t just for mistakes; they are, in fact, for intentions!


  1. When I was in art school, our teacher would make us darken large sheets of paper (with charcoal or something like that), and then "draw" with a kneaded eraser. It was pretty hard, since most people are used to drawing shadows, but it was a fun exercise.

    1. Oh, that would be an interesting exercise! A lot of work to darken the whole sheet, though! :-)


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